My PLN (Professional Learning Network)

I believe that one of the best ways to grow both professionally and personally is to interact with new ideas on a regular basis.  I often tell my students that when we stop learning new things, we get crusty, stale, and stagnant.  This applies to teachers as well as students.

Luckily, in this day and age, it is so easy to find new ideas! Over the years I have built a wide network of professional contacts and quality resources that I rely on to help me encounter new things. In education jargon, this is called a professional learning network (PLN).  Sometimes I’m looking for a specific activity or lesson idea; other times I just browse and see what catches my eye.

This week, for my CEP 810 course, I used a new tool – Popplet – to create a visual representation of my PLN.  I found Popplet very easy to use.  It would be a great tool for students to use to make mind maps.  You can embed images and YouTube videos, but it is currently somewhat limited in the ability to customize fonts and colors.  The font is small on this image, but if you click through you can see the full size image.


As I made the Popplet, I realized how much I rely on digital resources in my PLN.  I do read printed resources like journal articles, but those come infrequently, and often sit on my desk until I find time to get to them.  And I do learn a lot from face-to-face interactions with colleagues and at conferences, but again, new ideas come relatively infrequently from these sources.  But I can get a deluge of information from my online sources.  In fact, if I go a couple days without checking them, I get overwhelmed by how many emails, tweets, and blog posts I have to catch up on.  I’ve gotten good at skimming them, gleaning the important information I need at that time, and then not worrying about missing out on other things.  I’m always looking for new additions to my PLN, so feel free to suggest some for me!


Networked Learning Project Part 1: Making a Maxi Skirt

As the weather has finally started to warm up this spring, I’ve found myself frequently browsing the racks at my favorite clothing stores in search of some sundresses and maxi skirts to wear on warm days.  Unfortunately I’m realizing that the particular combination of shape, fabric, and cost I’m searching for is hard to find.  Actually, I often find shopping frustrating and wish I could just sew my own clothes in the specific colors and sizes I want.  A few years ago, I convinced my mom I was serious about this, so she bought me a sewing machine.  As these dreams often go, of course, that sewing machine is currently collecting dust in my closet. 


Luckily for my sewing machine, the Networked Learning Project for my CEP 810 course is about to rescue it from the dust bunnies!  I have been challenged to learn how to do something using only YouTube and online help forums.  I’ve decided to learn how to make maxi skirts (as shown in the picture) using only online resources.  I haven’t actually sewed anything since I made pajama pants in middle school.  And even then, I was using a pattern I purchased at the store and had the extensive help of my mom (who, if I’m being honest, did at least 90% of the sewing).  I also have never sewed with stretchy knit fabric before, and it seems that it requires some different techniques.

 I’ve done a little preliminary research and found a few links to sites that I think will be helpful:

  1. Video: DIY Maxi Skirt tutorial, ThreadBanger
  2. How to Make a Maxi Skirt, Wikihow
  3. Video: How to Sew Knits and Stretch Fabrics, smarmyclothes
  4. Sewing Knit Fabric on Regular Sewing Machine, Tilly & the Buttons

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for updates.  I appreciate your encouraging comments!


Photo Source:

Carina. (2011, April 11). Floral maxi skirt [Photograph]. Retrieved from  Made available under Creative Commons Licence.

Learning, Understanding, and Conceptual Change

At a conference last summer, I saw the presenter Aaron Sams ask his phone, “Google, what is the electron configuration of oxygen?”, and his phone immediately responded: “The electron configuration of oxygen is 1s22s22p6”.  I think I stopped breathing for a second.  I knew it was easy to “Google” information – but I hadn’t realized just how quickly and easily my students could access information that I spent hours helping them learn!  It made me question what I really wanted my students to learn.  Do they need to learn to use an algorithm for determining electron configurations?  Or do I just want them to understand how electron configurations relate to properties of elements? Or do they need both?  And how can I help them learn it in a way that they’ll remember and transfer that understanding to new contexts?

I found Bransford, Brown & Cocking’s book How People Learn (2000) helpful as I reflected on what learning entails and how to best assist my students in the learning process.  In response, I wrote this essay.  I welcome your comments and responses.

I’m Back!

Well, unfortunately I did not make the time to attend to this blog during the school year!  However, I will be reviving it this summer as I start a Master’s program in Educational Technology through Michigan State University.  I’m excited to begin this degree program by taking a class called “Teaching for Understanding with Technology” (CEP 810), because I think it will give me a chance to not only learn about new tech tools, but also help me think about how that technology can be used to provide richer learning experiences for my students.